Playing the best golf courses in Berkshire
Calcot Park does not follow the modern trend of opening with a gentle par five. The first hole is a testing par four of well over four hundred yards that demands two well-struck shots to negotiate the tree-lined fairway.
The second, at first sight, provides a measure of light relief but a well-guarded two-tiered green is receptive to only the most precise of pitches.
The water hazard traversing the front of the 3rd green is crossed by our new Millennium Bridge. The fourth is a par three of modest length, where strategically placed bunkers on the left and a large grass bunker on the right contribute to a tendency to come up short of the green.
The par four fifth relies on a constantly threatening stream and sloping fairway to trap the unwary.
The par three seventh, as well as being the most picturesque on the course, is also one of the most daunting. There is the small matter of a lake to be cleared from the tee! A sharp up-slope and front bunkers provide extra difficulty. Lest it be thought that the lake serves merely an aesthetic purpose, it should be noted that the esteemed Sir Henry Cotton once failed to clear the water during the News of the World Tournament!
The tenth offers a birdie opportunity to golfers of even moderate ability, which is probably just as well, as the long eleventh often requires a long iron to the green.
The closing six holes are scarcely less taxing and certainly no less scenic, with relatively benign par fours such as the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth contrasting with two superb short holes – the thirteenth and seventeenth.
The final hole provides a fitting and strenuous finish to the round and requires a well-drilled drive to clear the road that traverses the fairway. The green affords a splendid view of Calcot Park Mansion House, the Course's former Clubhouse. Best Bring a set of golf clubs and choose a warm sunny day. The course will be much favoured by all.
The best pies in town
Deceptive three-layed establishment. The front is a shop selling mostly pies but some sandwiches and delicatessen. The middle is a pub selling high-quality beers to wash your pie down with. The back is a big airy family café serving, well, pies.
Though it trades on the macabre folktale - there is a barbers shop next door - the Vicars Pie isn't made from the incumbent of St Mary's Church across the road, but with top quality meat supplied by Wm. Vicars the butchers (qv) :) Pies, pies and more pies! My favourite is the steak and oyster, but tomorrow it might be the ham and stilton, or the Five Nations (Beef for Scotland, Guinness for Ireland, Leeks for Wales, Mustard for England, Garlic for France)
The first Cathedral, of Norman style, was begun in 1075 at Old Sarum which is 2 miles from the City. After the demise of the old Cathedral, which subsequently fell into ruin, many of its stones were used to build a new Cathedral in Salisbury. The main body of the building is in Chilmark stone and Purbeck marble, and was begun in the year 1220 and completed in 1258. Situated at the confluence of four rivers, Salisbury is the only city within the county of Wiltshire.
The Cathedral hosts the tallest spire in England at 404 feet and it dominates the city. Many legends grew from the choice of the site to build the Cathedral; some say that the flight of an arrow shot by an archer from the ramparts of Old Sarum marked the place, another that the Virgin Mary appeared to Bishop Poore in a dream telling him to build in 'Mary's Field' which was the site selected, even though is was low-lying and marshy.
Salisbury is one of the few Cathedrals built in the shape of a double cross with the arms of the transept branching off on either side. The cloisters are larger and older than any other of the English cathedrals.
Reading - Home is where the heart is
Reading has been my home for a little over a year now, since I moved here from Bristol in June 2001. I lived here once before too, with my parents for a few months in 1976.
Reading is not a tourist city by any stretch of the imagination, and at first sight appears rather unprepossessing. But it has quite a lot of interest, and makes a useful base for exploring southern England, with its fast and frequent rail services to London, Oxford, Bristol, Southampton and Birmingham. It's also host to the original WOMAD festival every July.
First, a few facts:
Reading has a population of about 150,000 and is situated on the River Kennet, close to its confluence with the River Thames which flows just to the north.
Since 1974 the previously separate town of Caversham was incorporated into the new borough of Reading, so it now includes territory north of the Thames, connected to the town by two road bridges (which are hopelessly congested in the morning and evening rush hours)
Reading lies 65km due west of central London, and is home to a large number of commuters. It is not just a dormitory for London, however, and maintains a proud independence.
Historically the principal industries have been based on agriculture, and often referred to as the "Three Bs" - Bulbs (Sutton Seeds), Biscuits (Huntley & Palmer) and Beer (the once famous supplier of beer to the British Army, H & G Symonds). All of these have now gone.
The university, established in 1926, also has a strong agricultural emphasis but has diversified in recent decades to support Reading's new high-tech base, and contributes to a strong student body in the town, with a consequent effect on its life.
* The song Sumer is icumen in, sometimes known as the Reading Rota, was written by a monk at Reading Abbey in the middle of the 13th century. It is the oldest song known to have been written down, the oldest canon in English, and the oldest known song in six-part harmony. A copy of the notated song can be seen on a plaque on the walls of the abbey ruins.
* When a scandal caused a split at Oxford University, leading to the foundation of Cambridge University by a dissident faction, the remaining scholars transferred to Reading for several years before returning to Oxford. So although the present university dates only from 1927, the town has a scholarly tradition going back much further.
* Kate Winslet was born here on 5 October 1975 and is fondly regarded as Reading's favourite daughter.
* Oscar Wilde was confined to the town's prison between 1895 and 1897 for sodomy, and wrote De Profundis while he was there. (The better-known Ballad of Reading Gaol was written and published in Paris after his release.)
* T E Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia") is said to have left the manuscript of Seven Pillars of Wisdom at Reading railway station. He subsequently rewrote the whole lot from memory.
* Thomas Hardy set the fifth part of Jude the Obscure in Reading, to which he gave the fictional name "Aldbrickham". This was undoubtedly a reference to the austere red-brick appearance that the town still presents today, and was intended as a contrast with the grand limestone spires of "Christminster" (Oxford), the seat of Jude's thwarted ambitions.